Hey guys, I’m 19 and from Scotland and I plan to visit family in Toronto with my uncle. He’s flying to New York after a week in Toronto. I’d ideally want to spend 3 weeks or so there, but I’m not sure if I should keep my trip in Canada, or go to New York / other states. I have a contact in Vancouver as well, so that’s a possibility. Anyone have any recommendations of what to see / how to spend my trip? I don’t know much about that part of the world really. Thanks!
Well, you can probably do Toronto fairly comprehensively with a week to spend. I’d be cautious about frontloading too much running about into your remaining two though - as other posts will document, it’s almost always better to spend more time in fewer places and experience them properly. Nobody in here will be able to tell you exactly what to do though, so here are some things to consider:
1. Toronto’s kind of a food/drink/culture town. There are some good museums, great restaurants/bars, parties, concerts, shows and the like. It’s not stunning architecturally. There’s good walking/hiking/canoeing a few hours out in the heavily forested north if you’re into that.
2. As far as I understand it, New York runs along the same lines. It’s a large, touristy, cosmopolitan city with tons of things to see and do. If you’re looking for a city break, TO+NY might be a good choice, stopping at some places on the way like Niagara Region (wines) and Niagara Falls (actually pretty good).
3. Vancouver is earthier than Toronto. Sure the city is pretty citylike, but you go there for the scenery. The Rocky Mountains drop down to the coast, and the warmer ocean waters create temperate rainforest along the islands. You could easily spend two weeks exploring the islands, whale watching, skiing/boarding (in the winter) and looking for bears.
4. If you’re more into European cities, consider taking the train up to Montréal and Québec City. Both cities are fabulous to look at and take their food seriously. If you’re feeling flush, you could go all the way out to Gaspé and take in the rugged Atlantic scenery.
As always, Wikitravel is a good place to get a sense of what places are like!
Thanks! Do you recommend any places in between / South of NY to visit? I might head east to Montreal, then head down to NY. I do want to get some ‘small town’ experiences too, as well as possibly a bit of nature / activities.
Between Toronto and NYC I stopped off in Syracuse, mostly because an old summer camp co-counselor of mine lived there. It has a cute zoo and a very nice mall just full of locals, but other than that, not worth stopping.
The finger lakes region is cute, but impossible without private transport.
Have a look at http://www.moosenetwork.com/tours_canada_east.php and get some ideas of places you could visit that aren’t TOO far from Toronto.
One route option could be Toronto - Montreal - Boston - New York City. The bus between Montreal to Boston is no where near as Long as Toronto to NYC.
Certainly Toronto to Montreal and Boston to NYC can be done for as little as $1 one way if you book in advance. Though the international journey I expect would be between $40-$80 at a guess. South of NYC is Philly, and then DC further south again. All very well connected by bus/train, and DC can be alarmingly cheap once there as the vast majority of museums are free to enter.
It’s so difficult to properly recommend things when I don’t know your interests or the time of year you’ll be visiting.
I lived in Toronto for a little while and have visited Algonquin, Kingston, Ottawa, Montreal, Quebec City, Mont Tremblant, Tadoussac, Niagara Falls, Syracuse, Lake Placid, Burlington, Lake George, Boston, Nantucket, Martha’s Vineyard, NYC and Washington DC… all in those North Eastern states/Ontario/Quebec.
If you have any questions specifically about any of the places listed above, just ask, but it would be a lot to tell you about all of them! ;)
Thank you again Caroline! The new ‘rough’ plan is Toronto>Ottawa>Montreal>Quebec City>Montreal>NYC (train?) -I think this plan is feasible? I’d love for some smaller towns to visit on the route though. I’ll be visiting very late October / beginning of November, and I enjoy most things - I love experiencing a bit of nature (especially with all of the cities I’m visiting). I really appreciate the help and effort you put into your posts Caroline, you’ve been very helpful!
The train is not quick at all, the bus journeys are either the same, maybe an hour or two longer, or shorter depending on the route. The up side is it’s more comfortable however.
Take a look at greyhound (.ca and .com) Coach Canada and Megabus. Though don’t use Megabus to cross the boarder as they have double-decker buses and double the amount of people is stressful chaos at the boarder and the officials get very grumpy too.
If it was me, I’d personally throw in a trip to Boston between Montreal and NYC. I had such a good time there and extended my stay, but each to their own!
For getting out of the cities, there’s Tadoussac and Mont Tremblant, both have (pricey) buses from Montreal, and each have a hostel. Tadoussac is an independent hostel where everyone comes together in the evenings to have a ‘family style’ evening meal and afterwards people play cards and just hang out. Mont Tremblant has a HI with its own bar (easy to meet other travellers) and a lake in its back garden with free canoes.
I loved Algonquin but it’s a mare to do on public transport. I looked at doing it this way but the bus was only every 3 days and whilst it could have taken me to a hostel, I’d then have been stuck there with no way to see the park.
If you look at the Moose link in my post above, you’ll see they do a 3 day tour to the park. They stay at the Wolf Den which was amazing and then you have transport around the park to be able to canoe, hike etc.
If you go to Niagara Falls, try and stop off at Niagara on the Lake, it’s very chocolate box-y.
Are you wanting tips on places to stay/things to do in the cities you’ve mentioned? I could definitely keep going, I just don’t want to bore you!
That’s mad! Just checked with greyhound, $20 Montreal-Boston (advanced pre-booking price). I’ll probably use them for travel where available, seems very reasonable. Thank you for the other recommendations! Sadly the 3 day tour is unavailable at this time of year :/ my family in Toronto are taking me to Niagara Falls I believe. What would you suggest I do/where should I stay in Boston? I’m interested in including that, but I know little about the city.
Also, I’m a bit nervous about being alone, mostly when eating dinner or staying at hostels - quite a shy and introverted person. Any recommendations on that front?
A friend of mine went to study in Montreal for 2 months when I was in Toronto. She came to visit one weekend on the Megabus and paid $1 for a single journey. Check them out!
I’m not gonna lie, solo backpacking in North America is not as easy as SE Asia/Oz/New Zealand. You get a lot of locals using hostels as ‘cheap hotels’ for a weekend away etc. Don’t get me wrong, some of those locals can be amazing, but not all of them want to meet and hang out with other travellers so it can be a bit tricky!
Many hostels organise social events, some I stayed at had an events volunteer. The HI in Toronto had a weekly time table of social events in the evening with the odd social event during the day too. Be sure to sign up for these. You’ll find the vast majority of people who sign up for them are solo travellers looking to meet other people so they have someone to hang out/sight see/drink/eat with.
As just an example, in TO they did a hockey/basketball/baseball trip, ice skating in the winter, kareoke, pub crawls, board games night in the hostel… and so on!
The HI in Boston was also very good at organising social events, trips to MIT, Harvard, Irish Pub nights etc.
As a general rule, the bigger the hostel, the more difficult you may find it to just start a conversation with someone. However the bigger the hostel the more likely they are to have social events going on, so it’s a funny one.
Also hostels with bars can be great, and the same with any hostels that have a kitchen/serve breakfast and dinner, it’s a good opportunity to sit with other travellers as often there are no spare tables, but plenty of spare seats at tables with one person sat at it!
Highlights in Boston for me were:
Walking the Freedom Trail (and I got lost several times)
Taking a tour of Harvard, led by students from there.
Quincey Market - you must eat food there!
Day trip to Salem, home of the Witch Trials
The Common and Public Gardens were just beautiful to wander through.
The Bunker Hill area is lovely
You could also see a Red Sox or Celtics Game if they’re in season?
Thanks, I’ve been looking into backpackers hostels and checking what places are best reviewed. You’ve been really helpful! I’ll be sure to write up how my experience went afterwards :)